The play in question happened late in the third quarter of the Trojans' 39-36 victory when Washington State linebacker Logan Tago made helmet-to-helmet contact with USC quarterback JT Daniels after Daniels had taken a knee and was in a defenseless position.
Officials on the field called Tago for roughing the passer with no targeting before it was sent to the replay booth and the command center in San Francisco for further review.
"Both the replay booth and the Command Center agreed this was a targeting foul but unfortunately a third party did not agree so the targeting was removed and we went with the ruling on the field of RPS [roughing the passer] with no targeting," said the internal report, which was written by replay official Gary McNanna and obtained by Yahoo Sports. "This didn't play well on TV. Reversed my stoppage for TGT [targeting] to not TGT."
Yahoo Sports, through sources, identified the "third party" as Pac-12 general counsel and senior vice president of business affairs Woodie Dixon, who is not a trained official but is in the replay command center.
Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott told Yahoo Sports that a "third party" was not involved in the call.
"Our instant replay supervisor [Bill Richardson] is the ultimate decision maker," Scott told Yahoo Sports. "The misperception that in this case, the ultimate decision from the command center was made by someone other than the instant replay supervisor is a concern."
Another head-to-head hit in that same game between USC linebacker Porter Gustin and Washington State quarterback Gardner Minshew resulted in a non-penalty that did not reach the review stage for replay officials. If called, Washington State would have had a first-and-goal situation from the 10-yard line with 2:40 remaining in the game.
Had targeting been called in both instances, Tago and Gustin would have been ejected from the game.
The following day, Scott told The Associated Press that the Gustin hit "was a very, very close one, no doubt about it." He later said his comments were misinterpreted and he was trying to explain that every play is reviewed in real time, even if the action on the field is not halted, so referees calling that game can take another look. Scott said he had checked with Pac-12 officials to make sure that process was completed correctly, and it was.
"Unfortunately my comments were interpreted to be saying the conference had officially reviewed and I, or the conference office, had officially determined there was a correct no-call and that was the final word," Scott said. "That's not the case."